Social Insurance and Social Justice

Judie Svihula, Carroll L. Estes, Brooke Hollister, Erica Solway, Brian R. Grossman and Leah Rogne

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Social Insurance and Social Justice

Show Summary Details


The concept of “justice” dates back to Aristotle, and in 533 ce it was defined in Roman law as “the constant and perpetual wish to render everyone his due” (Isbister 2001, p.3; cited under Introductory Works). The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology defines justice as “a concept referring to fairness and to the process of people getting what they deserve” (p. 164). Although the definition has not changed appreciably over the centuries, there are myriad viewpoints on social justice (for a good summary of theories, perspectives, and approaches to social justice, see the Oxford Bibliographies article Social Justice and Social Work). Amid the competing perspectives, state welfare schemes administer programs, dispense important goods and services, and establish laws relevant to attaining social justice. A large component of the welfare state is social insurance, a mutually binding contract between a legitimate state and its citizens for promised benefits in return for income taxes. Social insurance in the United States is generally defined as programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and workers’ compensation programs, that provide a measure of protection to various populations. Older adults, younger persons with disabilities, children, survivors, and others are protected by these programs from devastating circumstances such as overwhelming health-care costs or loss of income due to events such as death of a wage earner, retirement, loss of employment, and illness. Capitalist democracies such as Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States comprise contradictory forms of distribution and social participation. The political economy theory explicates how political alignments shaped by the two ideologically incompatible social structures, a capitalistic economy and a democratic polity, affect welfare policy options and legislation. A major social insurance debate that highlights social justice is the idea of generational equity versus generational interdependence. Generational equity emphasizes even apportionment of benefits and costs among generations in social welfare, entitlements, the federal deficit, and the national debt; generational interdependence emphasizes social solidarity among generations and universal coverage.

Article.  9909 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.